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Nevada

Spanish For "Covered In Snow"

Published online: Nov 13, 2007 Feature
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Here's a bit of trivia we're guessing most folks don't know about Nevada. Did you know that Nevada means "covered in snow" in Spanish?

Covered in snow is not what most people conjure up in their minds when they think of Nevada. Vast, barren deserts, hot Las Vegas-with its nearly 40 million annual visitors-and gambling, now those are what first come to mind. Okay, some winter enthusiasts do think of Lake Tahoe, which is know for its world famous downhill skiing, but snowmobiling in the Silver State usually isn't near the top of the list.

Snowmobiling in Nevada used to be one of the West's best kept secrets but that secret is slowly getting out. Because Nevada has no developed trail system or well defined riding areas, it will never get the sledding crowds its neighbors-Idaho and Oregon to the north, Utah to the east and California to the west-do. But the more adventuresome who don't need or even want a trail system but like wide open riding in uncrowded spaces will find Nevada very appealing.

Snows are wet, dense and deep as they enter Nevada on the Sierra Nevada side around Lake Tahoe but dry out as they cross the state. According to the government, Nevada is the most mountainous state in the country, with more than 300 individual mountain ranges and 42 named summits over 11,000 feet. And all those collect snow in the winter.

There is a handful of riding areas in Nevada, from the far west around Lake Tahoe to the eastern part of the state near Elko. You can ride south of Elko, near Ely. Between Reno and Ely is the Toiyabe Range, near Austin, where there is also some snowmobiling. It takes a little work and research, but you can find places to ride . and then when you get there you can just about bank on the fact that you'll have it all to yourself.

The mountains surrounding the 1,640-foot deep Lake Tahoe are best known for downhill skiing. But there are plenty of snowmobile opportunities, too. There are a few snowmobile rental outfits around Lake Tahoe with most specializing in taking snowmobilers to vistas showcasing the lake. Or, if you bring your own sled, you can find these vistas yourself. Most of the grooming that is done in Nevada takes place near Lake Tahoe.

Places to ride near Lake Tahoe include Dog Valley, Spooner Summit and Tahoe Meadows. Tahoe Meadows is 6.5 miles north of Incline Village on Highway 431 and offers spectacular views of Lake Tahoe and Mt. Rose. According to the forest service, snowmobiling is allowed on the north side of Hwy. 431. The south side is designated for non-motorized activities. To access the main snowmobile area, ride from the staging area to service road 051. Follow this road northwest to the 1,000-acre riding area. Once through the snow play area sledders are free to ride up to the meadows and other snowmobile areas.

Spooner Summit (elevation 7,146 feet) is east of Lake Tahoe and west of U.S. Highway 395 while Dog Valley is north of Lake Tahoe, near Verdi, NV, on the Dog Valley Road.

South of Lake Tahoe in the Humbolt-Toiyabe National Forest along the Nevada/California border are some additional riding areas. This section of the forest is in the Bridgeport (CA) Ranger District and that would be your best source of information (760-932-7070). You can also try the Mineral County Chamber of Commerce (775-945-2507). Some of Nevada's tallest peaks hug the border here.

On the east side of the state is Mountain City and the Ruby Mountains. There may be no groomed trails here, but there are plenty of forest service roads waiting to be explored and acre upon acre of off-trail riding over rolling hills and challenging mountains.

Using Elko as a base camp, sledders can head north and/or south of town to ride. The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in northern Nevada features nearly a half-dozen areas to ride-near Mountain City and Jarbidge, north of Elko, and the Ruby Mountains, south of town.

Near Mountain City, you'll find two of the tallest peaks in the state, the Matterhorn (10,839 feet) and Jacks Peak (10,198 feet). In the Jacks Creek/Peak area you have the Independence Mountains, which offer open riding and terrain for riders of all skill levels. Farther to the east, and near Mountain City, are Wild Horse Reservoir, Gold Creek and Merrit Mountain (elev. 8,792 feet)with its miles and miles of open country. Keep going east and you'll ride the North Fork, Charleston and Jarbidge area, offering much of the same kinds of riding. Closer to Elko is the Adobe Summit (elev. 6,548 feet), where sledders will find big, open meadows and elevations that rise 2,000 feet. During normal snow years, the BLM says (and we can substantiate this) the Wild Horse, Gold Creek and Charleston areas have the best snow conditions.

The Ruby Mountains are just southeast of Elko and offer sledders riding from about 6,500 feet right on up to 10,000 feet. Ruby Lake (6,012 feet) gets about four feet of snow a year, but the surrounding mountains get much more.

Other riding areas include the Santa Rosa Mountains, and more specifically Hinkey Summit (elevation 7,867 feet), north of Winnemucca. Plenty of snow and an island of mountains are the attraction in the Santa Rosas. Granite Peak (9,732) and Santa Rosa Peak (9,701) are the reference points in this range.

A smaller riding area in east central Nevada is the Ward Mountain Recreation Area, located about six miles south of Ely. There are about 20 miles of trails that work around Ward Mountain (10,936 feet). East of Ely is the Schell Creek Range, where there is also some riding. As with anywhere, snowmobiling here depends on snowfall.

Heading West from Ely on U.S. Highway 50 is the Toiyabe Range, where snowmobiling is allowed on forest service lands. Services are available in Austin. For more information on snowmobiling in this area, contact the Austin Chamber of Commerce (775) 964-2200.

Some of these spots are more secret (hidden way, more like) than others, but more and more are discovering there's more to Nevada than glitz and glamour.

 

Guide

Nevada Commission on Tourism www.travelnevada.com

Road Conditions 877-687-6237

California-Nevada Snowmobile Association www.cnsa.net

Groomed Trails None

Highest Point Boundary Peak (13,140 ft)

Greatest Average Annual Snowfall Daggett Pass 123.1 in.

Record Winter Snowfall Mt. Rose Resort 323 inches

Coldest Recorded Temperature San Jacinto minus-50 degrees F

 

Lake Tahoe

Elevation 6,500-9,000

Snowfall 300-400 inches

Groomed Trails None

Full-Service Town Incline Village, Stateline

Nearest Airport Reno (48 miles)

Information 800-GO-TAHOE

 

Mountain City/Ruby Mountains

Elevation 6,500-9,000

Snowfall 100-125 inches

Groomed Trails None

Full-Service Town Elko

Nearest Airport Elko

Information Elko Convention and Visitors Authority (800) 248-ELKO

 

Santa Rosa Mountains

Elevation 5,000-9,000

Snowfall 100-125 inches

Groomed Trails None

Full-Service Town Winnemucca

Nearest Airport Elko (123 miles)

Information Winnemucca Convention and Visitors Authority 800-962-2638

 

Ward Mountain

Elevation 7,000-9,000

Snowfall 100 inches

Groomed Trails None

Full-Service Town Ely

Nearest Airport Ely

Information White Pine County Tourism 800-496-9350